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In Trying To Replace Himself On Ballot, Critics Say Rauner 'Cheated Republicans'

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois
Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks with Statehouse reporters on Nov. 29, 2018.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner says he tried to get out of his failed re-election campaign.

In an interview with WLS-TV, the ABC station in Chicago, the Republican says his fate was all but sealed when President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.

“That changed the dynamic from good chance of re-election to very, very difficult chance for re-election,” Rauner said. “I personally believe that if Sen. Clinton had won the White House, I think the odds of us winning re-election would have been dramatically higher.” (Rauner did not mention that his personal job approval trailed Trump's by five percentage points in a Simon Poll earlier this year.)

Rauner says he approached four different people, two men and two women.

“I said, ‘I’ll step aside, I’ll give you huge financial resources,’” Rauner said in the interview. “‘You run for governor, I’ll support you, you have as good or better chance to get elected than me.’”

All four said no. (The Chicago Tribune is reporting former state Sen. Karen McConnaughay, a Republican from St. Charlies, confirmed she was one of them. Citing sources, the paper also says Republican Party financier and Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Rickets was also approached, as was this year‘s Republican nominee for attorney general, Erika Harold.)

The group did not include state Rep. Jeanne Ives, the Wheaton Republican who almost beat Rauner in the gubernatorial primary. But she says she’s not surprised, saying it seemed to her the governor’s heart was not in his campaign.

“He doesn’t want to accept responsibility for the losses, and he may be trying to blame-shift his loss to others,” Ives said in a telephone interview. “Rauner cheated Republicans and voters who wanted a different choice than Pritzker, and he basically threw the election to the Democrats without a fight.”

Ives says the Illinois Republican Party should have known what Rauner was doing. She says it’s “very upsetting” that party leadership did not step in.

Ives was not alone in her reaction. State Sen. Jason Barickman, a Republican from Bloomington, told NPR member station WGLT-FM that the revelation shows Rauner never understood the political and legislative process.

“It’s disingenuous at best. Most importantly it cheats Republican voters from their opportunity to have a say in this. And that’s their voice that gets shut out,” Barickman says.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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